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Monday, July 16, 2018

Junagadh farmers to step up protests

Threaten to erase the demarcations made by surveyors of NHAI for National Highway 8D bypass near Junagadh

Written by Express News Service | Ahmedabad | Published: July 2, 2013 4:23:09 am

The farmers of Junagadh protesting against a bypass road for National Highway 8D near Junagadh,after getting support from Gujarat Lok Samiti (GLS),announced on Monday they would intensify their agitation by first removing the demarcations made by authorities.

Khedut Heet Rakshak Samiti (KHRS),an informal organisation of farmers affected by the bypass project,held a press conference on Monday under the aegis of GLS,an organisation of activists headed by Gandhian Chunibhai Vaidya.

Atul Shekhada,an activist and member of KHRS,said farmers will erase the demarcations made by surveyors of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and district administration of Junagadh after informing the authorities.

“We shall galvanise support from all the villages of Gujarat,send letters written in blood by women to the Chief Minister and file a petition in the Supreme Court,” said Shekhada.

Hamirbhai Ram,a member of KHRS,said a non-cooperation movement would be launched. Vaidya also claimed that an ex-MP from Congress,Madhusudan Mistry,a former BJP MLA and farmers’ rights advocate Kanu Kalsaria,advocate Prashant Bhushan of India Against Corruption (IAC),local leaders of Aam Admi Party and many other activists had also extended support to the movement. Affected farmers allege that under pressure from politicians,NHAI misled the Gujarat HC by filing an affidavit “different from feasibility report for the project”.

Documents accessed by The Indian Express also suggest NHAI apparently changed its decision after representations by political functionaries.

Lea Associates South Asia Pvt Ltd,a Delhi-based agency which undertook the feasibility survey of the bypass project,suggested that either the existing bypass be expanded from Dhoraji Chowkadi to the merging point near Madhuram in Timbawadi,or with a new alignment from Zanzarda Chowkadi to Koyali merging point. A third option was to construct a 20-km long bypass from Vadal to Shapur village.

The NHAI ruled out the first option “as 50 per cent of its length had come within the limits of Junagadh Municipal Corporation (JMC)”. It held a public hearing for the second option in January 2010 and eight affected persons,including former BJP MP from Junagadh,Mohan Patel,objected. Vitthal Radadiya,then Congress MP from Porbandar,also objected to the alignment and wrote a letter (a copy of which is with The Indian Express) to NHAI and then Union Minister for Road and Transport and Highways Kamal Nath saying the development had taken place along the existing bypass and its new alignment from Zanzarda Chowkadi.

The second option involved widening the starting stretch of the existing bypass toward the north. Along the same stretch of the bypass is located a school run by a trust promoted by Radadiya that would be affected if the road is widened. Following Radadiya’s representation,NHAI project director in Rajkot wrote to NHAI in Gujarat,which in turn,sought permission from higher authorities to go for the third option in February 2010.

However,NHAI went ahead and issued a notification in July 2010 and even issued notices for joint measurement survey (JMS) as per the second option.

Consequently,NHAI issued another notification in November 2010 for the Vadal-Shapur alignment without conducting pre-notification public hearing. The farmers made a representation against this to the then state Minister for Roads and Building Anandi Patel. In July 2011,she wrote a letter to then Union Highways Minister C P Joshi requesting to expand the existing bypass to save diversion of agricultural land.

During a public hearing at Koyali village in June 2012,farmers came to know the maps of the alignment of the bypass approved by the HC and those put up for public perusal were different from those in the feasibility report. They said the third option in the final feasibility report had become the second option in the NHAI affidavit and thus was misleading.

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